BOOKS: Cloud Cuckoo Land: Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land

"Cloud Cuckoo Land" is another masterful novel from Anthony Doerr, the author who rose to fame with the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "All the Light We Cannot See," in 2014.

But it's uncertain that readers who liked "Light" will like "Cloud Cuckoo Land."

Like "Light," "Cloud Cuckoo Land" is ambitious in its scope and layering of characters' tales into one story line. 

But unlike "All the Light We Cannot See" which followed several characters to one defining incident for them during World War II, "Cloud Cuckoo Land" follows several generations of characters connected by a story older than all of them.

In 15th century Constantinople, readers meet a young seamstress living in the city where she steals ancient manuscripts for buyers and a young boy who is part of a horde laying siege to the city. 

In 2020, in a small town in Idaho, we meet a tormented teen ready to commit an act of eco-terrorism at a library where an octogenarian leads a group of children in the rehearsal of a play based on his translation of an ancient manuscript.

In the future, a young girl hurtles through space with a group of people appointed to find a suitable planet where humanity can take seed. A computer system has every literary work known to man available for reading.

Doerr intersperses the ongoing lives of these individuals, weaving them in and out of one another. In additional chapters, he shares the backstories of the 21st century characters. 

In between the stories from various ages, he shares folio pages and translations of the character from the ancient manuscript titled "Cloud Cuckoo Land." The character is sort of a Candide/Gulliver type bumbling through strange lands and having adventures that take him inside a large fish and transform him into animals.

Doerr fits all of these pieces together masterfully, though they lack the emotional wallop of "All the Light We Cannot See." 

Still, perhaps it's unfair to compare to the two novels, "Light" came on as a tremendous surprise – a wonder from a relatively unknown author. "Cuckoo" is burdened with great expectations – the followup from an author who created a sensation.

That said, readers would do best to put aside memories of "Light," when picking up "Cuckoo," and readers should pick this book up.

The latest Doerr book is a revelation unto itself. And deserves consideration on its own merits.

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